- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2010

PAKISTAN

Officials: Suspected U.S. drones kill 13

ISLAMABAD | Suspected U.S. drone missile strikes killed 13 people in Pakistan’s volatile northwest Wednesday, the latest of five such attacks in the past week targeting an area thought to be a hide-out for militants involved in a suicide attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan.

The strikes highlight Washington’s growing reliance on unmanned aircraft to control militants staging cross-border attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Obama administration has pressed Pakistan to crack down on such groups, but the government has resisted, saying it has its hands full battling local Taliban militants waging war against the state.

ISRAEL

Death threats up security for Barak

JERUSALEM | Jewish extremists angry over limits on West Bank construction have threatened to kill the defense minister, prompting the government to beef up security around him, officials said Wednesday.

They said the internal security service, or Shin Bet, was investigating the threats and that Ehud Barak’s security has been reinforced in recent weeks.

Such threats are taken seriously in Israel after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a Jewish extremist opposed to his peace moves with the Palestinians.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing a sensitive security issue.

UNITED NATIONS

U.N. asked to ease some Taliban sanctions

UNITED NATIONS | Afghanistan asked the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to lift sanctions on elements of the Taliban that renounce violence and agree to support the government, signaling a new strategy against the militants.

Meanwhile, the United States said it is tripling its civilian experts in the nation to almost 1,000 — in a complementary effort to the additional 30,000 U.S. troops President Obama has ordered to Afghanistan.

At a U.N. Security Council debate, Afghan Ambassador Zahir Tanin proposed allowing his government to recommend names of Taliban members “willing to renounce violence and join the peace process,” so that they would no longer be subject to asset freezes, travel bans and arms embargoes if the council’s sanctions panel approves.

BRITAIN

Ex-Cabinet ministers challenge Brown

LONDON | British Prime Minister Gordon Brown fought off a challenge to his leadership Wednesday from two senior figures in his Labour Party as the party moved quickly to quash the revolt. But the challenge exposed a badly divided party months before a national election that polls predict it will lose.

Two former Labour Cabinet members sent a letter to fellow Labour lawmakers calling for a secret ballot on Mr. Brown’s leadership.

Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt said in the letter that grumbling about Mr. Brown’s performance was dividing the party at the worst possible time.

YEMEN

Manhunt launched for al-Qaeda cell leader

SAN’A | Security forces in Yemen have launched a manhunt for the suspected leader of an al Qaeda cell.

Mohammed Ahmed al-Hanaq is thought to be hiding in a mountainous region northeast of Yemen’s capital. Tribal leaders in the area told the Associated Press that officials are demanding that they surrender al-Hanaq and another al Qaeda suspect related to him.

The U.S. says the cell al-Hanaq is thought to lead was behind a plot to send al Qaeda fighters into the capital to carry out attacks, possibly against foreign embassies. The threat forced the closure of the U.S. and British embassies for two days earlier this week.

CUBA

Detained contractor was spying, Cuba says

HAVANA | A senior Cuban official accused a detained U.S. government contractor of spying on Wednesday, a month after the man was arrested on suspicion of handing out communications equipment to opposition groups.

Parliament leader Ricardo Alarcon said the man is under investigation, but has not been charged. Neither governments has identified the man who was arrested on Dec. 4 on suspicion he was handing out communications equipment to opposition groups.

The man was detained as he attempted to board a plane leaving Cuba, but Cuban officials did not grant him access to consular officials from the U.S. Interests Section, which Washington maintains in Cuba instead of an embassy, until Dec. 28.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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